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Seawolves Rock the Vote in Record Numbers

Stony Brook University’s students topped the All In Challenge charts with more than 1,300 students pledging to vote in the 2018 Midterm Election on Tuesday. Among the 455 universities participating in the challenge, Stony Brook’s participation was the highest, earning Stony Brook first place in the national challenge.

Yark Beyan
Yark Beyan, Team Leader for the Center for Civic Justice, talks to students about signing up to vote.

According to the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement from the Jonathan M. Tisch College of Citizenship and Public Service at Tufts University, about 43 percent of Stony Brook University students voted in the November 2012 Presidential Election — 3.7 percentage points lower than all colleges and universities nationwide.

This year, 1,769 total votes were cast by Stony Brook students at the on-campus polling site, marking an increase of more than 300% since the 2014 Midterm Election.

Since 2015, when Stony Brook established a partnership with The Andrew Goodman Foundation and its Vote Everywhere program, organized by Campus Champions Steven Adelson, who also serves as an Area Coordinator, and Ellen Driscoll, Interim Associate Dean of Students, the university has developed action plans for the 2016 and 2018 elections to increase voter turnout among students. In three years, more than 13,000 undergraduate, graduate and professional students have registered to vote; voter turnout has increased by 23 percent from 2012 through 2016; and the on-campus polling site in 2016 achieved an 86 percent voter turnout rate, which was the highest of any polling site in the country for the 2016 Presidential Election.

This year, Stony Brook scheduled events and initiatives throughout the year, beginning in late January, to encourage students to register to vote as well as participate in the party primaries in June and September and also the Midterm Election on Tuesday. The four-point action plan for 2018 included:

  • Increasing Stony Brook student voter turnout

  • Providing comprehensive access to voter education before the elections

  • Preserve the nationwide right for Stony Brook students to vote and,

  • Collaborate with other universities to transform democratic engagement.

To accomplish these goals, Stony Brook hosted community dialogue sessions about local issues, provided out-of-area students with access to absentee ballots for all 50 states and educated voters about ballot initiatives as well as candidate platforms.

Through efforts in previous years, a 10-point gain was made for Stony Brook student voter turnout between the 2012 Presidential Election and the 2016 Presidential Election while the national average increased only about 2.8 points. In 2012, about 2,109 Stony Brook students voted at the on-campus polling site and 3,002 voted on campus during the 2016 election. While the student population grew about 3,000 in the four-year span from 17,944 to 20,859, the number of Stony Brook student voters increased by about 43 percent, from 7,758 to 11,099.

Stony Brook’s Center for Civic Justice also invested time into helping students register to vote, including Class of 2019’s Yark Beyan, who spent four days a week at the Student Activities Center at a registration table. Since 2015, Beyan has helped register more than 17,500 students. This semester, she and 43 interns she supervises for the center have registered an additional 2,733 students.


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